Hi guys! Emmett here. Sarah told me you all requested a guest post on my favorite topic… landscaping 101. Sarah’s the houseplant whiz and I’m sort of the outdoor plant guy. One thing I find myself doing weekend after weekend, even though I sometimes complain about it, is landscaping and general yard maintenance. Deep down I have a true appreciation for a landscape job well done. On the other hand, I also seem to get rather frustrated when I notice landscaping design with no rhyme or reason, overcrowded landscaping, or the worst- a fantastic looking job that requires way too much maintenance and eventually leads to abandonment. I am going to share a few of my favorite, not so much tips- but rather commonsense / bits of knowledge to help make the outside of your home look like you actually care about it.
Costs // It is important to know that landscaping can be extremely expensive. Plants take a long time to mature, and as a result, many people splurge on mature plants (the big guys). These mature plants are over-priced and you do not get the satisfaction of watching your plants grow with time. On the contrary, if one looks at a plant individually, the price doesn’t seem too terrible; however once at the checkout with 20 Wintergreen Boxwoods in the cart, your receipt is going to be well over $400-$500. A few tips to save on costs are:
- Gather starts of plants from neighbors, friends, and family! This is my favorite way of obtaining new landscaping. It is free(!) and you can spend time with your favorite people.
- Buy plants in the smaller containers- They cost less and in a year or more you will see the fruits of your labor!
- Purchase plants that can be split- If you are looking at decorative grasses and need 10 of them, buy 5 and split them. They will be thin at first, but give it a year or two, they will fill in and look amazing… unless your neighbor mows them over like ours, ha! Still a bit of a sore subject.
Not all Plants are Equal // One thing I have learned over the years of trial and error, is selecting a plant because it is cheap or fits the space is sometimes a bad idea. Some plants require tons of water, hours of pruning, annual cutbacks, or edging/splitting to control growth, while others require you to dig a hole, put the plant in it and enjoy its view for years to come. Due diligence should be given as to what kind of plant you can reasonably maintain. If you enjoy spending time landscaping as a hobby, look for Knockout Rose Bushes which require pruning the dead blooms and feeding fertilizer with pesticides, or decorative topiaries which require shaping and watering.
For a low maintenance bush, Sarah and I planted Royal Burgundy Barberry next to our front porch sidewalk. It doesn’t bloom and it grows fairly even so there is no need to trim/prune. I know the flowering plants look pretty, but believe me, if you do not have time to take care of them they will end up looking abandoned and you will be wishing you went with the safer option.
Location, Location, Location // If I had to name the most critical aspect of landscaping it would be planting location. I am always taking Finn on walks and as I pass by all the houses in our neighborhood, I constantly have imaginary confrontational arguments with the home owners who seem to think it is okay to plant a row of sapling White Oak trees that will grow upwards of 60 ft. x 60 ft. only 6 ft. apart from each other, 15 ft. from their front porch, and directly below a power-line. Think about the dimensions of the full-size version of the plants. I use a tape measure and measure all the distances and heights of what I am about to plant. Plan ahead, too! Imagine what will be there in the future or what you want to use the space for eventually.
Design & Style // Consider design and style. Surprisingly, I’m better at this step in the process than Sarah. Mix and match textures, plan for height differentiation, and use scale & proportion. Sarah and I built raised beds that add elevation to our front landscaping. Had we not planted day lilies in front of the brick bed, it would have looked awkward! I like to practice the “mounding method”… place your taller plants in the back and gradually taper the height towards the front of the landscaping. I sometimes sketch out a little plan showing structured plants (like topiaries) alongside plants with organic edges. Textural changes and shape all come into play when landscaping.
Also use landscaping to your advantage. Do you need privacy or would you like to hide your neighbors ugly fence? We did! Our neighbor has a terrible fence… eventually this privet will grow to become 8ft. tall and very thick. It’s a quick growing plant that will hide the entire thing, offering a much better visual!
Finish & Maintain // Last but not least, please don’t skip the finishing steps! Mulching makes a huge difference. I prefer black mulch because it is high contrast. If you like a clean, graphic edge, black mulch is your best bet. Weed, water, prune, and care for your landscaping as needed. If you do a little bit every other week, it won’t be such a daunting task at the end of each season. Maintenance in key.
These fundamental ideas of landscaping will kickstart your green thumb and help create a presentable yard that you can enjoy for the rest of the summer and for many years thereafter. You can catch another glimpse of our front yard in this post featuring our covered porch. The plants have already grown a ton since Sarah shot the exterior for that particular feature. Let me know if you guys have questions or if there are any other topics you’d like me to discuss. Grab a beer, get outside, and get to it! It really is fun and enhances your curb appeal.